Jesus "Chuy" Garcia
Democratic candidate for U.S. House (4th district)
Responses to our questions
The U.S. government is now $20 trillion in debt. To address that historic level of public indebtedness, the country would need to raise revenue and/or decrease spending. What is your position on the budget and debt?
We need to rethink how we fund government. Government needs stable and predictable revenue to provide the basic infrastructure functions and services to our society. That means ensuring the markets run fairly, that people and businesses have access to affordable housing, education and training, healthcare, and transportation systems. It also requires that our country and our communities feel safe.
These are the critical roles of the federal government in the 21st Century. The current administration has cut taxes for the wealthiest individuals and corporations while keeping most of the loopholes. This administration is shifting more of the burden for taxes, health care, education, and transportation to individual workers and state and local governments, which will dramatically increase the debt and decrease the core capability of our country to innovate and grow. Industry needs good transportation, fair markets, a well-trained and educated workforce that is productive because it does not fear an illness, lack of housing, or transportation.
We need to have a more progressive tax system that taps the wealth and economy we have now, rather than the economy of 50 or 60 years ago. Only then will the country grow equitably and reduce the deficit.
Can you identify any major federal expenditures or programs that you would eliminate?
I would consider eliminating expenditures and programs, but not without further review.
Medicare and Medicaid costs continue to spiral. How can these programs be restructured to control costs and avoid collapse? Be specific about your willingness to change or reduce future benefits.
Medicare and Medicaid are crucial programs for more than just the elderly and low-income residents. While they will face a financial crisis in 20 to 30 years if nothing is done, we do not have to panic. It is important to remember that Medicaid covers the cost for 45% of all births in this country and approximately 62% of people currently in nursing homes receive some or all of their coverage from Medicaid.
The long-term solution is not to drastically cut back these programs, but to expand the pool to include younger and healthier people to reap the benefits of single payer/universal health insurance. Every study has shown that Medicare is incredibly efficient and cost effective at providing health care. Expanding that and reaping the benefits of new technology and preventive services will bring our total health costs in line with every other industrial country. This will allow us to control our costs, take the burden off of industry and to provide efficient and equitable care.
To be clear, preventive care and essential, life-saving procedures and medical care should be available immediately as needed.
What if anything should be the federal government's role in helping Americans obtain health insurance coverage?
See discussion of Medicare and Medicaid. I support the Affordable Care Act and will work hard to improve it and support its implementation. However, it is not acceptable that in the wealthiest country in the world we still have 29 milllion people uninsured. That is a terrible drain on the country, our economy, businesses and people. I support moves toward universal coverage, such as Medicare for All. Leaving more people uninsured or underinsured in a two tier system is unacceptable.
Economic growth has been steady but wage growth is slow. Are you content with the state of the economy? What is your recipe for enhancing American prosperity?
While there has been growth in some areas and the stock market, too many people are either under-employed or employed in jobs with no future, no benefits or job security. Youth unemployment, especially in low-income communities, rural communities and communities of color is too high. Black youth (aged 16-24) had over 3 times the average unemployment rate for white youth in July 2017. Latino youth unemployment was 25% higher than white youth. The percentage of the workforce unemployed, temporarily employed or involuntarily in part time employment is still 8%.
The median hourly wage is still only $14 per hour, which is not a living wage. We need to increase our commitment to education and training for all people so that young people can get more skilled jobs and older people can be trained in new fields. We need to embrace alternative technologies for energy production, develop new electronic and biological technologies and invest in our infrastructure as other countries are doing.
If you could fix longstanding problems with this country's immigration system tomorrow, what would you do? What is your position on the future of DACA and the Dreamers?
Immigration is the lifeblood of this country and has been the engine of growth and productivity for more than a century. We must not stop welcoming immigrants and refugees to this country. We also need to encourage immigrants already here to stay and continue contributing to our growth. We should pass legislation recognizing the immigrants — who are already here and positively contributing to society — and grant them permanent status and a pathway to citizenship. We should also continue to enthusiastically accept migrants and refugees from all over the world with their families and establish a proper vetting system.
It should be unaccepatble that we have not secured the status of the Dreamers through incorporating DACA into legislation. This will be one of my top priorities in Congress.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program represents a direct threat to the security of the United States and its Pacific allies. How should the U.S. confront or contain Kim Jong Un's regime?
I do not believe that a direct attack on North Korea would be in our interests. We need to continue with current and expanded economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts to both isolate North Korea and reassure them that we will not invade them. Our current military forces in the region clearly enable us to address any provocative act by North Korea.
ISIS is contained in Syria and Iraq but terrorism remains a threat. What are your priorities in keeping the country safe?
Our priorities for public safety are to continue our efforts to track terrorist activity in the US and around the world. We should increase our efforts to attack discrimination and integrate immigrants and others into our education and employment systems. We must understand that a growing number of attacks are from white supremacist and right-wing extremist groups. The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that between 2008 and 2016, the U.S. had nearly twice as many terrorist incidents by right-wing extremists than from Islamist extremists. It's important that our law enforcement not overlook and ignore the growing threat of domestic terrorism from these groups.
Should the U.S. continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran?
Yes. The limited aims of the agreement remove the threat of Iran possessing nuclear weapons. There is no reason for the US to invalidate the agreement as it does not prohibit the US and its allies from addressing other issues involving Iran.
What is your position on the continued presence of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
I don't support an immediate withradawal of the troops, but we have to constantly evaluate whether our mission is really protecting the Afghani people.
Do you support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales? Do you support magazine limits or a ban on certain rifles? Describe, briefly, your position on how to balance safety with the Second Amendment.
Yes, I support a unified, federal background check system for gun sales. Yes, I support magazine limits on certain rifles. Reasonable gun controls on the sale and ownership of guns are clearly within the bounds of the Constitution. Such controls include a unified federal background check system for gun sales and limits on certain kinds of rifles that are not designed for sport use. The 2nd Amendment guarantees rights for sport uses and militias, such as the National Guard. Constraints on the sale and ownership of certain types of guns will not compromise our constitutional rights or our safety. The plethora of guns in this country clearly contributes to the escalating level of violence. Other countries, such as Australia and the EU properly constrain gun ownership and have lowered gun shootings and gun-related deaths.
Should the U.S. government take steps to curb emissions of greenhouse gas? If so, what steps? If not, why not?
Climate Change is a serious problem facing our planet. 97% of scientists agree that global warming is real and we need to do all that we can to turn it around. I support the Paris Climate accord and former President Obama's Clean Energy plan. I think we need to aggressively develop and implement alternative energy and transportation technologies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and move our country forward in creating and adopting new technology. We must also support more energy efficiency and building modernization strategies (as well as technologies) through both tax credits and subsidies (such as the subsidies on solar power and electric vehicles).
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I started three marathons and finished all of them. When I start something, I complete it.
If you are an incumbent, tell us the most significant accomplishment of your current term.
Some my most significant accomplishments in my recent term on the Cook County Board include: the creation of the Social Innovation Commission, raising the minimum wage in Cook County, passing paid sick leave and working to reform of the Cash Bail sysetm, which has already resulted in a nearly 40% reduction in the jail population at Cook County Jail.